The Conjuring: Conjuring up a little love in my cold heart

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This poster is rad.

Forgive me while I totally give into the hype surrounding this movie. I can’t help it, I could deny that I totally enjoyed this movie. I could write cynical things about the faults of the movie but I don’t really want to. In my humble opinion, none of the little faults are deal breakers or anything that stuck with me in such a way that I feel the need to “warn” you about it. No, I just want to enjoy and nerd out a little bit.

Let’s tip the hat briefly to James Wan for directing this film. He’s great, right? It doesn’t matter if he writes, directs, produces, or some combination of those. I will even be seeing The seventh installment of the Fast and the Furious because he’s directing it. (In case you were wondering, I dropped out after we drifted off to Tokyo a few F&F movies ago.) When a film is really good, its due to an awesome director, writer, actors, technicians, everything is just coming together. And for the most part, I feel like that magic little soup happened here. The Conjuring was written by Carey and Chad Hayes. Twin brothers and screen writing dynamic duo. I wasn’t too familiar with their repertoire. According to IMBD we have them to thank for the remake of House of Wax and several episodes of Bay Watch, AND Bay Watch Nights.  None of those titles are relevant to this movie. But there, it is.

You will know from either the trailers or opening credits that this whole thing is based on a real event. The Warren’s are a well known husband and wife team of paranormal investigators/demonologists. Lorraine Warren’s superpower is being a gifted clairvoyant. Ed Warren has the ability to rock a mean gray flannel suit. (Just kidding. I got nothing but love for Ed). Anyway, they come to the aid of the Perron clan. The Perron’s and their tribe of daughters live in an extremely old house that is haunted infested with evil. And now the game is afoot to help this lovable family before it’s too late.

For your convenience, I am going to list my favorite parts. This will contain SPOILERS…I think. Just in case, read it after you’ve seen the movie. And, please do go see it! I feel it’s not to be missed if you’re a horror fan.

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Can I please have both?? I will give them a good home.

A few of my favorite things….

– The opening! Duh! It features one of my most favorite dolls I have ever seen in a movie. Annabelle 🙂 Needless to say, I want her for my creepy-ass doll collection I cultivate. I have seen that the IRL doll was actually a Raggedy Ann. I love me some RA, but this Annabelle was 10x’s more interesting. The opening scene just sort of hits the ground running and I loved that. Clearly, this was foreshadowing the something in the overall plot to come, but I really admire the way they laid that out. Of course it was then followed by…

– The title! It was yellow and looked perfectly retro. I was instantly put at “ease” by this! It was like watching one of my old, favorite classics. I hope you felt the same.

– The story is set in 1971, and EVERY little detail of this movie looked totally vintage. The costumes, the props, the set and so forth was on point without looking corny. I am a costuming geek and I always appreciate attention to detail in clothing.

– The damn movie was actually scary. I can’t remember a movie freaking me out like this in recent memory. The first/biggest thing that got me was the notion of “something” non-living pulling your leg while you are asleep in order to both wake you and  scare the beejeesus out of you. I am one of those who often sleep with one or both feet above the blankets at night. And the thought of something grabbing my leg like this has crossed my mind before.

– I love that this movie really scared a lot of people. There was actually screaming and jumping in the theater! I think that is fantastic. EVERY scary movie should have that reaction from their audience members. Personally, I didn’t scream. But I’m not much of a shriek-er in theaters. However, friends of mine who are also non shriek-ers in general were not immune to this movie and did actually scream. Some did it multiple times. Y’all know who you are 🙂

–  Next is the strong female leads. Lorraine and Carolyn Perron (Vera Farmiga & Lili Taylor). Both fabulous actresses and the glue holding the movie together in many ways.

– The very sparse amount of  seeing the demons/ghosts/creatures. True, we get a few good glimpses here and there, but mostly we are treated to just little teasing winks of things. Like the two distinct images of a dirty nightgown and creepy freakin’ legs just “hanging” there?? Did I ever mention that hangings is one of my favorite scary images?? Like that brief moment in The Sixth Sense when those poor people are dangling in the school. I hate it and I can’t even really describe why. *Shudder* . This movie got that so right for me.

– Okay, there are definitely more moments. But those are the ones that really stand out for me. I am really proud of myself because I was very positive in this review and I think I got my point across. And yet, I want to be snarky for just one moment. I’m sorry, it’s just in my nature. Here are a couple of things I wasn’t keen on:

-If I had to take issue with anything in the film, the major thing would be the climax/near ending scenes. I didn’t like the mob of angry birds and all that ruckus and fanfare. I just really appreciate when scares are kinda subtle and “realistic.” And when the whole wrath of God  Satan comes raining down, it just makes me sigh.

-I’m also not a big fan of demonstrative outpourings of emotion. And the whole end-battle when Carolyn is sobbing through the possession struggle and then we have Lorraine yelling encouraging things to get her home girl through it, it just didn’t work for me. I know I sound completely contradictory because mere sentences ago I praised how much I loved these ladies. But I can’t pretend I liked all the emotional turmoil. Perhaps I am a robot and such sentiments are beyond me. Oh, and I think they handled it as best they could, but that little girl would have gone through some trauma after her mother did some crazy ass shit such as kidnapping her and her sister. Mummy then tried to stab the youngest child to death whilst she looked like rotten apple head doll due to possession. So, I guess that makes it “okay” since  it wasn’t really her?? Yet right after the fight, the family shambles into the sunlight, mom’s face clears up, and she gives a very sincere and tearful apology. So, I guess it’s all good? Hmm. I don’t know how else they could have handled closing that scene, but I wasn’t a big fan of what we got.

Even with a few complaints I still have all kinds of love for this movie. I liked the actual closing A LOT too. Seeing them put the music box in their museum (memo to self: must go to there), and then basically heading off to the next case. I loved that. Regardless of if you believe in anything paranormal, or even if the Warrens were legit in what they claimed to do, it was a great ending note. They say through the whole movie that God brought them together to help people, so that’s what they aim to do! I hear rumors of a sequel. Count me in.

Greystone Park: Looks like Downton Abbey in Hell

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Perhaps the title there is a bit misleading. Nothing about this movie is really at all like the fantastic BBC show. However, the building itself looks like Downton Abbey. Well, maybe only a little. I think what I’m trying to say is it’s a big, sprawling, old building.  Oh! It’s also a real place. A former real-life psychiatric hospital, just as the movie tells us. Now that I cleared that up, let’s press on. This is low budget type of movie I found at times both fun and atrocious. I mean that as a compliment because I was really entertained by this little film. Allow me to introduce Sean Stone. Sean stars in, directs, and co-wrote this film along with fellow writer/star Alex Wraith. Sean looks like Maroon 5’s Adam Levine if didn’t have that emaciated thing going on. Oh, he also happens to be the son of acclaimed director Oliver Stone. His dear ole mum and dad even have small roles in the film. The third lead character is a girl named Antonella. All the leads use both their IRL names as their character names too, which is convenient for our purposes today. But, it also makes things kind of fun in a real/not real, could-this-be-based-on-actual-events territory. Sean seems like the level headed type, I daresay even a bit boring. Alex is impulsive, scattered and a smidgen cray-cray. Antonella is obsessed with Medusa. She also has a tendency to swing back and forth in various scenes from talking a big game about going into an abandoned mental hospital, and then freaking the fuck out in others and constantly repeat silly phrases such as, ” I have to leave here, I can’t be in THIS room any more!” Forgive the paraphrasing. So what are these kids doing here? The three are making a documentary of sorts about the titular location, Greystone Park. Now in ruins, it once was a mental hospital known for using extreme methods (electroshock therapy, etc) on their patients. There was an infamous client there called Billy Lasher who could still be hanging around in an un-dead sense. In fact, the whole place is reportedly haunted and has a way of messing with the minds of those who go exploring within the building.

So this movie has one of those opening sequences that always remind me of music videos. Kind of flashy, jumpy, cut scenes, all black and white creepy images, you get the idea. So, imagine my surprise when the pacing of the thing suddenly slowed down to a crawl. Everyone knows I enjoy a good slow-burner, but this was getting silly. When I was really feeling the drag, stuff got interesting. There starts to be subtle little clues in the background of shots, I love that kind of thing. And then Alex is acting more crazy. Not just reckless, but obsessive.

Let me digress from one moment to talk about an issue dear to my heart. I happen to be doll collector. And I love a creepy doll. We get some good doll spooky-ness here. Future film makers, please don’t over use the doll tactic. At the point of abuse you run the risk of alienating the doll collecting community. That is all.

At the climax of this movie, things take a turn for the  better. The characters are just spiraling into madness, and it’s great fun to watch. The scary stuff is cranking up and getting more interesting. And then, there is THAT scene. It is somewhat random, and not eluded to or explained, but I freakin’ loved it. After the break below I will go into some detail for those who don’t mind a spoiler.

To recap, this movie is a little rough. It has that look and feel of a beginning filmmaker(s). But that isn’t a bad thing. Everybody has to start somewhere. And these early movies can be kind of fearless. I couldn’t help but root for it. And even though it had it’s low points (some cliche dialogue and characters, oddly slow pacing here and there), it also had good things going for it. I didn’t shut it off after 20 minutes so that means I was entertained.

This goat is not metal. But he is fabulous and relevant to this movie. Kinda.

This goat is not metal. But he is fabulous and relevant to this movie. Kinda.

Spoiler: I wanna chat about that scene in the movie that got me all juiced. In case you couldn’t tell, it’s the scene in the church room. The boys are looking at what they think is Antonella dancing all hippy-ish at the front of the pulpit. The boys exchange some funny dialogue full of self referential humor, which was great. The ruined church has turned into this super creepy black, Santanic-seeming mass. There are these goat-masked/puppet things set up around the pulpit as if addressing their congregation of demons and just being scary while she dances about for them all grotesquely! When Sean gets brave enough to try to approach and lure Antonella out, the dancer turns around to reveal she’s not Antonella at all! Well, if she is she’s some kind of evil demon albino version of herself. Nothing leading up to this point seemed to indicate a Satanic black mass was eminent. It was random. But that means it was unexpected. Plus it was twisted and fun.